Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Who Decides, the Students?

Zaino, J. (April 4, 2014). Why Students and Staff Should Have a Voice in IT Decision-Making. Retrieved from http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2014/04/why-students-and-staff-should-have-voice-it-decision-making.

Jennifer Zaino begin her article, Why Students and Staff Should Have a Voice in IT Decision-Making, by describing the actions of one district in choosing devices to use in their "authentic learning" one-to-one program. The article is a blueprint for how to choose devices for a district, and explains why it is important to involve students and staff into the decision-making process. 55 Students had the opportunity to use a variety of devices, including laptops, tablets, and Chromebooks to gain thinking skills.

First, IT departments need to have, or build, honest relationships with technology vendors. this will give stakeholders the opportunity to know all the devices that can be reviewed. Zaino goes on to say that "Students need to be fully invested in the success of the project in which they're participating." If they aren’t students won’t take it seriously. Also, in order to engage students, IT departments that don't have much to do with the curriculum side of a district need to partner with instructional leaders. This partnership will hopefully eliminate any gaps between device usage and school learning.

Students were grouped. Each group was to evaluate one of the devices by researching everything they could about their device: cost, warranty, management, and usage. The ability for a device to handle online testing was one requirement it had to fulfill. It quickly became clear that a physical keyboard was an important element that kids identified. Students were given direct connection with vendor representatives to help build their technical expertise, and students even took a field trip to the vendor headquarters where they got to meet with representatives of the device manufacturers in order to get a better understanding of each device and its capabilities. One teacher said the field trip meetings were "critical" to the process. A committee made up of school staff also followed a similar process as the students. In the end the students, along with a committee of teachers, administrators, and technology staff, gave recommendations to the school board.

I found the process more involved than ours last year when we were looking for a one-to-one device for SD13. I really liked the connection Zaino talked about, having the students meet vendor reps and manufacturer reps. I’m sure it gave the students a feeling that their opinions counted. I’m not sure it was totally needed. I mean if a district were going it to tech for the first time and had to inkling of what they needed, it seems this process would be beneficial. But, we knew at the outset that the device needed to be online-test friendly, and therefore, needed a keyboard, so there goes all the tablets. Durability is alas a factor in a school, so detachable keyboards, and flip-around keyboards just didn't seem very durable. And unless cost is not a concern, I don’t see how a district could come up with any other decision than a Chromebook. They only thing a Chromebook doesn’t do well is take pictures and video, and that has been addressed by one manufacturer already. They have a flip-around camera, so students can hold the device, shoot images, and still see the image on the screen. Whether the camera is durable is another possible problem, however.